Manchester United has been accused of “double dealing” after sponsorship talks between the club and an online casino firm broke down.
Internet gaming group Mansion made the claim after confirming talks about a £70m shirt sponsorship deal broke down.
Mansion chief negotiator David Kinsman said the two had verbally agreed a deal, but then United pulled out after talks with other firms.
United denied the claims in the Daily Mail, saying it never holds exclusive talks:
“We would understand why anybody would be disappointed at not securing the shirt sponsorship deal for Manchester United. We have not and do not enter into periods of exclusive negotiation and every party we have discussed the shirt sponsorship with are aware of that. All the parties were aware that several discussions were going on at the same time and our priority is to look for the most appropriate deal for Manchester United.”
The club is looking for a new sponsor to replace Vodafone, whose £9m-a-year deal ends at the end of the season.
Mr Kinsman said he and other Mansion executives had been “flabbergasted” by United’s decision to pull out of negotiations on Sunday.
He was reported in the Sun as saying that he had cut short a business trip in China to meet the club’s commercial director Andy Anson after being led to believe the two had “done a deal“. He added:
“It was something of a surprise therefore to be told last night that United had been negotiating with someone else. During the negotiating process we had no idea this kind of double dealing was going on. Manchester United have not acted as we expected them to.“
The all-cash deal with Mansion would have involved a substantial up-front payment and been worth around £65m to £70m over the next four years. According to Mansion, the two parties had also discussed a joint gaming venture which could have potentially helped to raise income for the club in overseas markets. It also said that United wanted the option of buying a 20% stake in Mansion should the company ever float its business.
Vodafone announced last November that it would end its four-year £36m sponsorship deal with the club in May. The telecoms giant first started sponsoring United in 2000. United is hoping to rival or even exceed Chelsea’s current £50m five-year deal with Samsung, the largest shirt sponsorship agreement in the English Premiership. The deal is seen as crucial to the Glazer family, the club’s owners, as they seek to increase the club’s revenues and bolster the club’s squad. United lost its crown as the world’s richest club last year when it was overtaken by Real Madrid.
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